It’s true what they say: veins have no secrets, and varicose veins are no exception. Have you ever looked at your legs and noticed small, twisted, lumpy, blueish veins running through them? Yep, those are your varicose veins! But while they’re a common part of day-to-day life, what actually causes them? If you’re wondering (or feel alarmingly close to investing in a set of compression stockings!), then read on.
Today we’ll be discussing the causes, risk factors, and even ways to help prevent varicose veins from forming. Let’s start with the basics: What are varicose veins? Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that are usually found in the legs and feet. They usually develop over time and cause discomfort or even pain.
Symptoms associated with them can range from mild aching to swelling of the leg or leg ulcers, and it is important that you get properly diagnosed if you suspect you may have varicose veins. So, what causes varicose veins? Let’s find out.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins, defined as swollen and oversized veins commonly appearing on the legs and feet, are caused by a variety of factors. Many believe they are primarily caused by weak or faulty valves in the vein wall, allowing blood to backflow due to gravity and increasing pressure on the vessels. This could be exacerbated by a patient’s lifestyle choices, such as sitting or standing in one position for too long, leading to circulatory stagnation.
Others hold that they are usually caused by a congenital malformation in which certain veins are constructed with an insufficient number of valves.
It is important to note that regardless of the exact source of varicose veins, maintaining healthy blood circulation is essential for avoiding or reducing their appearance. Factors such as inherited genetic traits, age, gender, body weight, pregnancy hormones, and being overweight can contribute to low circulation around the legs and feet, so any preventative measures to maintain venous health should be addressed holistically.
As this article continues into the next section, discussing how low venous circulation can exacerbate already present vein issues or lead directly to varicose vein formation in some cases, it is clear that further understanding of what triggers these malfunctioning veins — and how to stop them — holds immense importance. Lives can be substantially improved by actively seeking out solutions to improve circulatory health problems before they manifest into painful varicose veins.
Low Venous Circulation
Low venous circulation can also be a possible cause of varicose veins. It is thought that poor blood flow, specifically when it comes to the return of deoxygenated blood back to the heart, may contribute to the weakening of veins, which eventually leads to their distention and varicose vein formation. This could be due to external factors such as an individual’s lifestyle habits, genetics, and physical makeup all influencing the decreased movement within the veins that causes varicose veins.
This theory has been the subject of considerable debate since reticular venous drainage, which is responsible for draining 75% of the total venous circulation, takes place in a passive manner, meaning external factors would unlikely have much influence over this process. Furthermore, electro-physiological studies on healthy individuals found near-normal venous inflow when compared with those who are suffering from varicose veins. Critics argue that this suggests that low venous circulation may not be a major cause of varicose veins.
Nevertheless, evidence supporting the idea that low venous circulation plays an etiological role in developing varicose veins does exist and includes arteries and arterioles supplying our extremities having less resistance than veins, meaning more pressure passes through them, disallowing optimal venous return when constricted. This is also supported by various studies finding dysfunctional valves in veins caused by increased or decreased pressures being associated with varicose vein formation, strengthening its case as being one of the contributing causes affecting this condition.
Finally, it is important to note that other factors such as increased pressure on veins and sedentary lifestyles are also believed to play a role in causing varicose veins and low venous circulation. As such, any conclusion regarding how large of a role low venous circulation truly plays needs more research before being definitively proven. With this in mind, we can transition into looking further at these other hypothetical etiologies as they come together to form a clearer picture of what causes this condition.
Increased Pressure on the Veins
As mentioned previously, decreased venous circulation is one of the major causes of varicose veins; however, increased pressure on the veins can also lead to varicose vein problems. This additional pressure on the veins is sometimes due to genetics or lifestyle habits such as standing for a long period of time or intense exercise. Research suggests that the excess pressure may weaken the valves in your veins and lead to damaged walls in your deep veins, ultimately triggering varicose veins.
For instance, older adults with weak muscles are more likely to have issues with their venous system because they lack muscle mass and often have poor circulation. This can further worsen if they fail to perform basic leg exercises too. Similarly, those who do strenuous activities and don’t maintain proper posture while exercising can also be at an increased risk of developing varicose veins due to the extra pressure on the legs.
Though it’s important to note that not all cases of excess pressure on the veins lead to varicose veins, overall health, and fitness play a pivotal role here. For example, a person who engages in regular physical activities but has strong leg muscles is less likely to experience any form of vein-related issue.
The risk factors associated with increased pressure on the veins may vary from person to person, so it might be prudent to check with your doctor periodically, even if you don’t feel symptoms related to varicose veins.
At times, people may overlook signs of weakened or blocked blood flow in their bodies, which can later cause many other complications. While these habits require effort and dedication in order to reduce your chances of developing varicose veins, doing longer sitting sessions, ensuring proper posture while sitting, standing, and even sleeping, as well as having regular physical activity, can help keep these risk factors at bay.
That said, there are other things posed by life itself that can lead to this condition, which we will explore next.
Risk Factors for Varicose Veins
In addition to increased pressure on the veins, there are several other risk factors that may contribute to the development of varicose veins. Some of these include age; gender, genetics, pregnancy, being overweight or obese, and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Age is an important factor when it comes to varicose veins. As we age, the walls of our veins become weaker and less elastic, making them more susceptible to becoming varicose. Gender also plays a role in increasing one’s risk of developing varicose veins, as women are twice as likely to develop them as men because of their higher production of estrogen and their hormone cycles. Genetics is another strong factor, as some individuals may be more genetically predisposed to having weak vein walls due to familial conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency, which can lead to weakened valves in the veins. Additionally, being pregnant also increases one’s chances of developing varicose veins, as increased blood volume during pregnancy puts added pressure on the veins, while hormones released during pregnancy loosen the tissue in the vein walls and make them more vulnerable.
Finally, those who are overweight or obese have an increased likelihood of developing varicose veins due to their heavier body weight putting additional pressure on the leg veins. Similarly, a sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity exacerbates the problem since muscle contractions help promote healthy circulation throughout the body when exercised regularly.
These risk factors don’t account for all cases of varicose veins but instead create increased vulnerability for some individuals when compared with others. However, many cases can still be avoided by taking proactive steps toward preventative health and lifestyle habits that will be discussed in the following section.
Lifestyle and Habits
The lifestyle and habits of individuals can also play a significant role in the development of varicose veins, as many of these are considered to be risk factors for developing the condition. For instance, those who spend extended periods of time sitting or standing still may find that their leg muscles tire more quickly, which can put them at higher risk. Additionally, activities such as heavy lifting and harsh exercise have been shown to potentially cause the condition.
On the other side of the argument, research has suggested that engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can diminish the chances of developing varicose veins. This is primarily due to the benefits of regular exercise in strengthening the walls of the veins and helping with venous circulation.
While lifestyle and habits may lead to varicose veins, steps taken to improve one’s lifestyle can be beneficial when it comes to reducing instances of this condition. As a result, it is recommended that individuals look for ways to increase their level of physical activity and ensure they maintain an adequate body weight if they want to reduce their risk of developing this condition.
Having established some of the factors that affect one’s risk for varicose veins, it is important to consider how certain underlying conditions may contribute to this issue as well. Poor vein wall strength is often a major contributor to the incidence of varicose veins.
Poor Vein Wall Strength
The strength of the vein walls is a factor to consider when thinking about what causes varicose veins. Vein walls are made up of different layers, such as the inner lining and surrounding tissue layers, that help to keep blood in its proper flow and circulation. If these walls become weak over time, they have difficulty providing adequate support for the vessels, and the valves tend to remain open rather than closed. The extra pressure placed on the veins, combined with other factors like age and occupation, can result in bulging, rope-like veins that occur when standing or sitting, also known as varicose veins.
However, some argue that vein wall strength is only one component that leads to varicose veins, and there are many other possible causes that need to be considered. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and ensure that you are taking all the necessary steps to maintain vein health. This could involve exercise, maintaining an ideal body weight, and ensuring correct posture when standing or sitting. Additionally, elevating your legs whenever possible can also help to reduce symptoms associated with varicose veins.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Symptoms of varicose veins typically appear in the legs, although they may occur in other parts of the body, such as the rectum or esophagus. As veins become stretched and enlarged due to increased pressure, symptoms such as pain, aching, tiredness, and heaviness of the legs can occur. The skin over the vein may become itchy, dry, or discolored, and small red or blue spider-like veins may be visible in some cases. These symptoms are even more noticeable after standing for long periods of time and usually improve with elevation of the feet or legs combined with rest and massage of the affected area. In rare cases, a blood clot in the veins can cause severe pain and swelling, known as phlebitis.
The exact cause of varicose veins has yet to be clearly determined, though research suggests that factors like genetics, gender, increasing age, connective tissue problems, lifestyle, and hormonal fluctuations all play a role. Regardless of the underlying factors, however, one thing is certain: varicose veins can be painful and difficult to manage if left untreated. That is why it is important to seek medical advice when noticing any changes in the appearance of your veins, so you can get an accurate diagnosis and find the most suitable treatment options for your condition.
From there, understanding the wide range of treatments available for varicose veins will help you determine which one works best for you to help lessen your symptoms and provide lasting relief from this condition.
Treatment Options for Varicose Veins
When it comes to treating varicose veins, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, as the best treatment will depend on the individual’s circumstances and the severity of their symptoms. While some mild cases may not require treatment, serious cases may require a combination of treatments in order to alleviate the discomfort.
The most common treatment option used to treat varicose veins is sclerotherapy, a minimally invasive procedure during which a medical professional injects a liquid or foam directly into the affected vein. This causes it to shrink and close off access to the circulation, leading to rerouting circulation through healthier veins. This treatment has been found to be as effective as more traditional surgical options and with fewer risks.
Another frequently used method of treating varicose veins is endovenous laser ablation (EVLA). EVLA involves using a laser to heat up and close off problem veins, similar to how sclerotherapy works. A thin fiber-optic cable attached to the laser is inserted into the targeted vein and then guided through it. The heated laser energy seals off the vein, shrinking it away over time.
In more serious cases where these treatments do not bring enough relief, more aggressive procedures such as ambulatory phlebectomy or traditional vein ligation might be recommended by a doctor. Ambulatory phlebectomy involves making several small incisions in the skin for the removal of superficial varicose veins, whereas traditional vein ligation requires major surgery involving tying off larger veins. It should also be noted that lifestyle changes such as avoiding high heels and long periods of standing or sitting might also be recommended.
Overall, it is important to emphasize that different people will have different outcomes with these treatments, and finding what works best can take time. Depending on the severity of their condition and symptoms, individuals should discuss each option with their doctor in order to decide which is right for them.
Get Relief from Varicose Veins with Our Expert Doctors
If you’re suffering from painful or unsightly varicose veins, our team of experienced doctors is here to help. We understand that varicose veins can impact your quality of life, and we’re committed to providing personalized care to help you find relief.
Using the latest techniques and state-of-the-art technology, we can help you reduce pain and discomfort, improve circulation, and enhance the appearance of your legs. From minimally invasive treatments to comprehensive care, we offer a range of options to meet your unique needs.
So why wait? Contact us today at (817) 927-5627 to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards healthy, beautiful legs.
Our expert doctors from the North Texas Vein Clinic are here to help you every step of the way, so you can feel confident and comfortable in your own skin.